Gun Rights, Restrictions, and the 2nd Amendment

Welcome to Gun Rights, Restrictions, and the Second Amendment.

The site links below should be helpful in understanding the history of gun rights and restrictions across history, the Second Amendment, the 2008 US Supreme Court decision District of Columbia v. Heller, and any rights that we, as individuals, may have to possess guns.

1. Early Historical Documents: A review of eight early historical documents, from the Magna Carter in 1215 through 1791 AD when the Second Amendment came into effect, found no mention of guns. Four mentioned arms, including the Bill of Rights. Review these documents here.

2. Timeline and 18th Century Definitions: Learn more about the passage of the Bill of Rights, including the Second Amendment, and definitions of key terms used at the time.

3. State Laws, 1623 – 1791: On the day of ratification of the Bill of Rights in 1791, 12 of the 14 states in existence at the time had some legal restrictions on the right of individuals to keep and bear arms. Four of those states also had laws that required certain individuals to have or carry arms, independent of the militia and the military.  Between 1623 and 1773, 10 further laws had been in force in states and colonies that required the carrying of weapons for non-militia or non-military purposes, however all had been repealed prior to the ratification of the Bill of Rights.

4. State Constitutions and the Right to Bear Arms, as of 2022: Forty-four US states include the right to bear arms in their state constitutions; six do not, but one state has a constitutional amendment on the ballot in November 2022. Click here for more information.

5. Supreme Court Decisions, 1856 – 2017: Between 1856 and 2017, 45 US Supreme Court decisions confirmed restrictions on the individual right to keep and bear arms. This section contains lists and summaries from the 1856 Dred Scott v. Sandford decision to Peruta v. California in 2017.

6. D.C. v. Heller: In the 2008 case District of Columbia v. Heller, the Supreme Court held by a 5-4 vote that “The Second Amendment protects an individual right to possess a firearm unconnected with service in a militia, and to use that arm for traditionally lawful purposes, such as self-defense within the home.” This section contains the Amicus Curiae briefs and opinions from the Supreme Court in District of Columbia v. Heller (2008) as well as from the lower district and appellate courts in Parker et al., v. District of Columbia (2004 and 2007), the precursors to Heller. See also the post-Heller opinions of six cosigners of a 1999 Amicus Brief from US v. Emerson (2001), where the US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit ruled that the Second Amendment guarantees individuals the right to bear arms.

7. Post-Heller Court Opinions:

  • McDonald v. Chicago (561 US 742), a Supreme Court decision dated June 28, 2010: “We therefore hold that the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment incorporates the Second Amendment right recognized in Heller. The judgment of the Court of Appeals is reversed, and the case is remanded for further proceedings.”
  • New York State Rifle & Pistol Association, Inc., Et Al., Petitioners V. City Of New York, New York, Et Al. (590 U. S. _), a Supreme Court per curiam opinion stating that the case was no longer relevant: “State of New York amended its firearm licensing statute, and the City amended the rule so that petitioners may now transport firearms to a second home or shooting range outside of the city, which is the precise relief that petitioners requested in the prayer for relief in their complaint. … Petitioners’ claim for declaratory and injunctive relief with respect to the City’s old rule is therefore moot.”
  • On June 15, 2020, the United States Supreme Court decided not to take 10 new cases for the next term that dealt with Second Amendment issues.
  • Young v. State of Hawaii (No. 12-17808; D.C. No. 1:12-cv-00336- HG-BMK), decided March 24, 2021, by the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit: “The en banc court affirmed the district court’s dismissal of an action challenging Hawai‘i’s firearm licensing law, Hawai‘i Revised Statutes § 134-9(a), which requires that residents seeking a license to openly carry a firearm in public must demonstrate ‘the urgency or the need’ to carry a firearm, must be of good moral character, and must be ‘engaged in the protection of life and property.’”
  • New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v. Bruen (No. 20-843), decided June 23, 2022, in a 6-3 ruling, the Supreme Court struck down New York state’s limits on carrying concealed handguns outside of the home.
  • On June 30, 2022, the United States Supreme Court sent four cases that uphold gun restrictions back to the lower courts for them to retry after June 23, 2022, Supreme Court decision in New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v. Bruen.

8. National Gun Stats, Unrelated to Our Right to Arms: Find interesting stats in this section, including gun ownership rates and the percentage of adults in each state who live in a household with at least one gun, firearm mortality rate by state and a comparison of guns deaths per capita in US states versus the number of gun laws in each state, plus information and statistics on criminal background checks for firearms sales and total estimated firearms sales and company profits.